May 30th, 2016

Monday 23 May

Monday morning and I'm on the train to London for another week at Westminster.  On Mondays my regular column appears in The National Newspaper.This week I wrote about the next NATO military action in Libya.
Photo: The National
George Kerevan: Nato leaders are meeting to discuss the start of the Second Libyan War.

OUR next war starts officially on July 8. On that date, the heads of all the Nato countries meet in Warsaw National Stadium. Top of the agenda is rubber-stamping a Nato-led assault on what is left of Libya. Preparations have already begun with British, French and US Special Forces infiltrated and active on the ground against the Libyan branch of Daesh. Prospect: as big a Western debacle as we have seen before in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Flashback to 2011 and the overthrow of mad dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the son of a local goat-herder who originally led a military coup against pro-Western King Idris back in 1969. For the record, Libya has a population not much larger than Scotland’s but is 22 times bigger. It also has oodles of oil and gas, which is its attraction to the West.

Read the full article here 

When I arrived in Parliament, I went directly to the Private meeting of the Treasury Select Committee to discuss with my colleagues all the amendments to our latest report that had been submitted. 
The report is on the economic and financial costs and benefits of the UK's membership of the EU.

You can access the full report here
On Monday I also wrote to Ross McEwan, Chief Executive at RBS to urge him to review the Bank's decision to close its branch in Prestonpans. 

Tuesday 24 May

On Tuesday morning, I left the Parliament to go to the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre for the launch of the FCA Occasional Paper on Access to Financial Services in the UK.

You can consult the final version of the paper here.

Following the launch of the report, I came back to Parliament to join the Treasury Select Committee meeting to question the Governor on the Bank of England's May Inflation Report.

Watch the session here :
In the afternoon we had another session of the Treasury Select Committee with External Members of the Financial Policy Committee to discuss the economic and financial costs and benefits of the UK's membership of the EU.

Wednesday 25 May

On Wednesday morning I met with Nick Maher, CEO of the Industry Parliament Trust to discuss the merits of the IPT's Fellowship Scheme.

Following that meeting, I went to the Treasury Select Committee private meeting for further discussion of our report on the UK's membership of the EU.  After a short lunch break, we went back to the committee meeting room to continue our discussions on the remaining amendments to the report.

We finished just in time for the first series of votes, concluding 5 days of debate on the Queen's Speech

Thursday 26 May

Thursday was the last day of debate on the Queen's Speech. As usual on the last day, we discussed the rather thin and lacklustre legislative agenda for the coming year the Chancellor has proposed.

Watch my contribution to the debate below. I talked about the need for more competition in the banking market, and for more transparency and independence for the regulatory authorities.

On Thursdays my weekly column appears in the East Lothian Courier. This week I wrote about the poor decisions made by both RBS and Muirfield.
Read the full article below and see Saturday for details of my protest against the closure of RBS in Prestonpans. 

Home to Scotland as usual on Thursday night. I couldn't be certain if voting would be finished in time for me to catch the last train back, so I hadn't reserved a seat. And, of course, it was Bank Holiday Weekend.

Friday 27 May

Breakfast with eastcoastfm, where I discussed the withdrawal of First Bus services from East Lothian with the two Ians -  Ian Robertson and Iain Gray. We agreed that First Bus have been running down their services in the county for years, and we should see this as an opportunity to rethink transport provision, working towards an integrated bus and train service. I have already spoken to the Chairman and Interim General Manager of Lothian Buses - who lives in North Berwick - and will be meeting the Scottish Government's Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to take matters further with him.
Back to the office for yet another meeting on Universal Credit, a disastrous UK government innovation which is being pioneered in Musselburgh and already causing untold misery to those on benefits. Then off to Dunbar and North Berwick for my monthly surgeries. I was in luck this week: North Berwick Rotary Club was holding its annual Rotary Shop at St. AndrewBlackadder. I resisted all sorts of temptations, but still came away with a few more books for my library.

Saturday 28 May

Libraries were on my mind again today. After a breakfast meeting with a constituent at the bright and friendly Brunton Cafe, I slipped across the road to Musselburgh Library, which is threatened with closure. Yes, it would move into the Brunton, and yes, there would be public toilets, but the space currently being proposed is smaller and on the first floor. And it would lose its garden. 

This cannot be allowed to happen. Surely the current building can be repaired and extended - there is lots of room out the front. Just look at the programme of activities going on there at the moment. And the staff have just been retrained to help out with the dreaded Universal Credit applications, which can only be made on line. 

East Lothian Council has already shut down its mobile libraries - there were three at one point - and now is going after Musselburgh. How shortsighted can you be? Angela and I would never have got to university if it hadn't been for the local library, and it will be the same for young people from modest backgrounds today.
Then on to Prestonpans to protest against the planned closure of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the only bank in town.

I had already written to Ross McEwan, the Chief Executive of RBS, as soon as I heard the news. He regularly appears before the Treasury Select Committee, so he knows who I am.

But I also produced a letter for local users to sign, and our dedicated SNP team handed it out. I will be delivering the letters personally when Parliament resumes on 6 June, so drop into the office in Haddington and ask for a copy if you haven't managed to sign it yet.

Here we all are outside the bank, including local Councillor Peter MacKenzie, and Tranent and Musselburgh Councillors Kenny McLeod and Fraser McAllister, who came along to lend support.

The Labour Party were out too, collecting signatures for their petition, so of course I added mine.

The more pressure we put on the Royal Bank of Scotland the better. Do they really think that the entire population of Prestonpans banks online?
On to Haddington to catch the end of the Farmers' Market, a date I never miss. Ballencrief bacon for Sunday breakfast, Falko's cheesecake for Sunday tea. And delicious fish chowder for lunch at Jo's Kitchen.

By then the sun had come out, so the journey across to North Berwick was a delight, the East Lothian landscape at its finest. Steampunk welcomed us with home-made lemonade, while Cllr. Dave Berry and I sat down to an in-depth discussion on the First Bus situation. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of transport services in East Lothian, and has agreed to come and see the Minister with me. Together with Cllr. Michael Veitch we will find a better solution to East Lothian transport problems than we have at the moment.

And home to tea. Do we really have to save the cheesecake until tomorrow?

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